Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Framing Watercolor Paintings: Avoiding Common Issues

Framing Watercolor Paintings: Avoiding Common Issues

Framing watercolor paintings is easier than you think. All you need is a few techniques to avoid some common issues.
First-time framers can be weary of framing their watercolor paintings. That’s because as the art dries, it leaves ripples in the paper - sometimes subtle, but often, more dramatic. That prevents the painting from lying flat against a mat.
“And that can leave the end result looking sloppy or warped,” said Chris Brown, our Commercial Department Framing Assistant.
But making it work can be simple.
Some artists address the issue by embracing it. They start with deckled edge paper, and use a narrow mat to show the edges, even if they are warped.
Some watercolorists intentionally rip the paper to make the edges look worn. You can also apply that “floating” technique if you’ve painted too close to the edge of the paper and you don’t want any of your work obscured by the frame.
You can dry mount the paper before painting it. That allows the paper to lay smooth once the painting is finished. One drawback: you need to choose the mat and frame size before you start working.
If your watercolor paper ripples during painting, you may be able to fix it and still achieve a flat mount. Brown suggests evenly misting the back of the paper with water, then laying the work face down. Layer paper towels over the back and place a heavier layer, like Plexiglas, on the back. Finally, add another heavy layer, such as books. Check the painting 24 hours later to see if the ripples have disappeared. If not, repeat the process.
“Some people are uncomfortable using the water method with a watercolor. They think they might damage the piece,” Brown said. “But I would recommend practicing this if you can.”
Another challenge: potential ripping caused by adhesives. We recommend reversible tape. It’s easily peeled off and reapplied without causing harm to your delicate art. Brown prefers gummed tape, which can be easily removed with a damp cotton swab.
“If I’m questioning this method, I use a small sample to test a corner of the paper,” Brown said. “I find that self-adhesive tape doesn’t often hold too well with soft but dense watercolor paper.”


  1. Thank you for posting these tips. Framing uneven paper is very tricky and I know this issue arises almost always when water colors are used.

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